On 18th March the lowering the voting age project team took part in a Political Studies Association (PSA) panel discussion on Brexit, young people and politics as part of an ongoing event series with the British Library. The event involved eight young panellists; Alexandra Bulat (Communications Officer, PSA Early Career Network), Jake Cooper (Councillor for Belle Vue, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council), Esther Follis (Wallace High School, Lisburn- member of the winning team in the PSA’s 2018 Student Video Competition), Kira Lewis (British Youth Council), Shakira Martin (NUS President), Jack Norquoy (Scottish Youth Parliament), Lara Spirit (Our Future, Our Choice) and Dr James Weinberg (Co-Convenor of PSA’s Young People’s Politics Specialist Group). Additional organisation of the event was provided by Dr Tom Loughran and the discussion was chaired by Dr Andy Mycock both from the lowering the voting age project at University of Huddersfield.
The evening was split into three separate panels covering the impact of Brexit on young people, how they understand the politics of Brexit, and whether Brexit has strengthened or weakened the case for votes at 16. This ensured lively and passionate debate throughout evening, particularly on how young people can be more effectively involved in the political process after Brexit. While some panellists were confident of the UK’s future after Brexit, many were pessimistic about its impact on young people. Most of the panel support improved political education in schools and colleges to ensure future generations were more informed and prepared to vote. There was some disagreement however about whether Brexit has strengthened the case for ‘votes at 16’.
Audience participation was a key feature throughout, producing some good-humoured challenging perspectives and exchanges with panellists. Live audience voting software was successfully used to gauge the views of the audience on key issues and as a debating point for the panellists. A short report will be forthcoming from the PSA and University of Huddersfield researchers based on these audience findings and the comments made by the panellists. A full recording of the event, as well as additional interviews with the contributors and photos, can be found on the PSA website at https://www.psa.ac.uk/psa/news/lively-discussion-psa-british-library-event-brexit-young-people-and-politics’